Affirmed V. Alydar: A Rivalry to Remember
You’ve all seen those races. If you were alive then, your eyes were glued to the TV screen or on the track before you. If you weren’t, you’ve watched them over and over again on YouTube and documentaries alike. The races of Affirmed and Alydar are incredible to watch. That feeling of exhilaration jumps through the screen, birthing butterflies in stomachs that already know the outcome. Two tough colts putting on a show, whether that was at age two or at age three. It is so easy to conjure up the memories of that rivalry in your head. Think back on the 1977 Champagne Stakes. Do you see Affirmed in a three-way battle in the stretch, your eyes searching for Alydar somewhere on the screen but he is lost somewhere in the dust? Do you remember him suddenly appearing, charging at Affirmed like he had just sprouted wings to get to the wire first?
Surely, you do. No one can forget these two colts and how they faced each other time and time again. The rivalry so deep that the two colts faced each other six times before the Kentucky Derby even began.
No memories are as clear as Affirmed finishing just a length ahead of the fast closing Alydar in the Kentucky Derby and then fending him off by a neck and then a whisker in the Preakness and Belmont.
You have these memories because these are horse racing’s legends, some of the finest specimens our sport has ever seen. Both horses were so full of talent, drive, and heart. Yes, you’ve watched the races. But, have you read about these horses?
Duel For The Crown Book Review
I recently read Duel For The Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing’s Greatest Rivalry Linda Caroll and David Rosner. Admittedly, this book had been on my shelf for years before I finally decided to sit down and give it a full reading, cover to cover. It didn’t take me long to read it, because this book was absolutely incredible.
Authors Linda and David do an amazing job of keeping the reader entertained. They keep the book very easy to read. It’s not too wordy and everything is to the point. That doesn’t mean it lacks in description, however; this book paints beautiful pictures of the Calumet trophies adorning the house of Lucille Markey and of Patrice Wolfson holding the head of Affirmed in her arms. Duel For The Crown starts you off at the very beginning of the story, recounting how Calumet Farm and Harbor View Farm came to be. It tells the trials and tribulations of the men and women who made these farms. It takes you through everything that led up to the breedings of Affirmed and Alydar.
Along the way, you are learning about the jockeys and trainers of each horse. You learn the story of the young Steve Cauthen, just a boy riding horses and winning like he had been practicing for twenty years. You also learn the story of Jorge Velasquez, the older of the two with a nack for winning races. The book recounts the life of the colorful Laz Barrera and tells how John Veitch got a chance to train for Calumet Farm.
Once those two colts come into the story, they absolutely run away with it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you are getting through chapters, your mind enchanted by the stories of Affirmed and Alydar. Their rivalry turning from infancy to something huge and unmistakable.
The book expresses how much the connections of Affirmed and Alydar loved and adored them so. You can feel Patrice’s love for Affirmed and the dedication Lucille and Gene Markey had for Alydar.
All in all, Duel For The Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing’s Greatest Rivalry is a must read for anyone who is interested in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing. It not only details one of the most exciting rivalries in the sport, but also shares the history of important farms and people. It is so educational, interesting, and very much worth the read.
I encourage you to pick this up for yourself or to gift it to the horse racing fans in your life. You truly cannot go wrong with this book.
This review is part of Champions of the Track’s “Holiday Horse Racing Gift Guide”, a project I am putting together to help people find the perfect gifts for the horse racing fans in their lives. Contact Champions of the Track at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a product or service that you would like featured in our gift guide!